09/15/2006 12:00AM

Chief's Magic big chalk


POMONA, Calif. - A smashing maiden victory by Chief's Magic stamped the 2-year-old as a potential graded stakes runner. But what's the rush?

Chief's Magic could have run anywhere in the country after blasting Del Mar maidens Sept. 2 by more than seven lengths while earning an 89 Beyer Speed Figure. The number is only 3 points less than Horse Greeley earned winning the Del Mar Futurity.

So why is Chief's Magic running Sunday at Fairplex Park in the $130,000 Barretts Juvenile? Simple - all the other spots are taken. So says Bob Baffert, who trains Chief's Magic for owner Ahmed Zayat.

"We've already got Malt Magic for the Norfolk and Point Ashley for the Oak Leaf," Baffert said citing two upcoming stakes at Oak Tree. Besides, Baffert added, "the money is good at Pomona." It is even better when your horse looks even-money to win a 6 1/2-furlong race restricted to horses offered at a Barretts sale.

Twelve entered the Barretts, and 10 will start. Chief's Magic was purchased for only $50,000 in March, and his seven-length debut victory was not a surprise to Baffert, even though he returned $16.20.

"I knew he was quick, and fast," Baffert said. "Did I bet him? No."

It is the only wrong move Baffert has made with Chief's Magic, a gelding by Chief Seattle who will be ridden Sunday by Tyler Baze.

A good field will try to catch the chalk, including an intriguing shipper from Canterbury Downs. Tie Rod has won 2 of 4 starts, including a minor stakes, and while his best speed figure is more than 30 points lower than the favorite's, Tie Rod's trainer Jeff Mullins hopes his colt's affinity for Fairplex negates his speed-figure disadvantage.

"If he runs like he trains, he'll be all right," Mullins said, adding "he's got speed, too." David Flores will ride Tie Rod, a California-bred son of Old Topper who was sent to Mullins one week ago.

Babcock Lake, a fast Golden Gate maiden winner, will keep Chief's Magic company, and a fast pace would benefit Roman Commander. A maiden whose campaign was interrupted when he got sick at Del Mar, Roman Commander is the late threat.

"He doesn't have any speed, but he should run good," trainer Gary Stute said. "I think the future is routing."

The speed figures Roman Commander earned in May and June (71 and 68) make him a threat in September.

Also entered are Future Search, Lit'sgoodlookngray, Pawnee, Marked Warrior, Seliman, and Zoning In.